Decarnation Review – A Detailed Descent into Darkness

Decarnation is a game that features the perfect blend of horror, thriller, and psychological aspects. It takes you on a thought-provoking journey through a life that is in turmoil within the physical realm, and the subconscious mind. Inspired by Satoshi …

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Decarnation is a game that features the perfect blend of horror, thriller, and psychological aspects. It takes you on a thought-provoking journey through a life that is in turmoil within the physical realm, and the subconscious mind.

Inspired by Satoshi Kon’s cult classic, Perfect Blue, Decarnation follows a troubled individual who is forced to deal with the negative sides of working in the world of entertainment – much like Mima Kirigoe.

For more information about the game, you can visit the official Steam page. This review will naturally be spoiler free too – as we want everyone to experience the game for themselves.

The Story of Gloria

image of gloria from decarnation performing cabaret on stage as she kicks her leg up, she has an audience watching her as the curtains behind her are closed, this scene is a rhythm game, with button prompts on the screen for the player to press in time with the music

Set in the year 1990 in Paris, we are introduced to Gloria – a cabaret dancer who seems to be losing grip on her own reality. She’s being held back in her career; feeling as if she can’t climb her way up the ladder and is instead stuck at rock bottom. Not only that, but the only redeeming part of her life is also crumbling – her relationships.

This results in her self-esteem plummeting as time goes on. With a lack of confidence, her ambitious nature is being overshadowed by the troubles that she is facing. From the get-go, we already feel sympathetic toward Gloria. We quickly start rooting for her within the first few minutes of the game.

Gloria’s life already seems pretty bleak, but it only gets worse from there. She’s promised a lucky break, but she soon comes to regret going down this brand-new path. The story had us hooked instantly, and it wasn’t hard to become totally invested in what was happening to Gloria – subconsciously and in the real world.

Sound and Visuals

screenshot of a scene from decarnation of gloria standing with an old lady as they overlook the water that surrounds them, there is a stone bridge, and building debris with chimneys submerged in the water, there is also an overgrown tree with roots growing down the wall behind gloria

With the game being set in 1990, the decision to go with a retro art style is the icing on the cake – and it doesn’t limit the game at all. In fact, the way the characters are drawn gives the game a sense of innocence as it lures you into the turmoil of Gloria’s well-being.

This is especially true when the faces of those characters suddenly become warped as Gloria’s mind sinks deeper into darkness. The contrast between a smiling cartoon-like character and a face that twists into something inhuman is one of the many ways in which Decarnation horrifies. In a good way.

Lovecraftian monsters await Gloria in her subconscious as she walks up labyrinthine staircases, with the environment around her falling to pieces – and we mean this in a literal sense. As the story progresses, the space that surrounds Gloria in her mind becomes increasingly realistic and intricately detailed. Even she begins to think that she’s physically standing in a familiar place, despite the obvious change in decor – with the occasional pieces of debris, monsters, and lurking shadows.

The soundtrack is also hauntingly fitting with Decarnation’s overall theme. Striking piano chords, nostalgic beats, and atmospheric musical tones fill your ears as you traverse both of Gloria’s worlds. None of this is surprising when you learn that the iconic composer, Akira Yamaoka, was involved in creating the soundtrack. The composer behind Silent Hill produced 10 tracks in total for this game – providing the sinister melodic touches that he’s known for.

The Gameplay

the image features two screenshots from the game of the main character gloria in her apartment, there is a monster in her apartment as she looks scared, with a shrine of photos of herself in the background, there are tentacles bursting through the floor and walls, there is also a screenshto of gloria standing in her apartment while taking part in a rhythm game as floating eyeballs and bubbles surround her above, her face is warped and stretched out

Decarnation is a story-driven game at its core. You’ll be walking around, interacting with items, talking to people, and reading text bubbles – the standard mechanics in the genre. But, the game takes you by surprise with the expertly designed interactive puzzles.

Not only do they make you scratch your head as you try to work them out, but they also represent Gloria’s current state of mind. They aren’t just puzzles thrown into the game for the sake of it. Each puzzle has its place and reason for being there at that exact time.

What took us by surprise the most was the rhythm-based mini games. It’s the last thing you think of when you imagine a chilling horror game. But it works in Decarnation, and surprisingly well.

Gloria is a talented cabaret dancer, and even with that part of her life seemingly collapsing before her eyes, her rhythmic skills still exist in her subconscious mind. There’s something quite brilliant about enjoying a slice of rhythm action in the middle of what is otherwise dark and foreboding experience.

A Thought-Provoking Title

Ultimately Decarnation is incredibly thought-provoking. Gloria’s life in the physical world is slowly falling apart, which in turn has a significant impact on her deteriorating psyche. You’ll find yourself thinking about this game even when you’re not playing it, and there can be no greater praise than that.

The good

  • Retro art style sets the scene for a game based in 1990
  • Chilling music produced by Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill
  • Thought-provoking and engaging story
  • Intricately designed environments and monsters

The bad

  • There are puzzles in the game, so it may not be for everyone
80 out of 100

Staff Writer
With experience writing for GameRant and in SEO copywriting, Adele loves to combine her adoration for gaming and writing. She'll talk your ear off about Final Fantasy, and if she's not typing away at her desk, she's probably playing a JRPG somewhere.